“The rotation finally got some good news” a St. Paul Saints press release read last week after signing pitcher Kramer Sneed. The club had lost three of their top pitchers during the last 18 days and have struggled on the field while trying to keep a lead in the race for a division title.
The Saints have seven games left on their regular-season schedule, all at CHS Field, and hold a three-game edge over Winnipeg. Their path to winning back-to-back north division championships, however, got a little more difficult when John Straka, Dan Johnson and Eric Veglahn were picked up by major league organizations.
Since the first departure on Aug. 12, the Saints are 5-12.
Straka and Veglahn’s contracts were purchased by the Toronto Blue Jays. Straka, the 26-year-old Chaska native, was 10-3 with a 4.48 ERA with the Saints and joined the Blue Jays Double-A team. Veglahn, the 22-year-old St. Thomas grad, was 3-4 with a 4.39 ERA, and will join the Blue Jays rookie team in the Appalachian League.
Johnson, the former major leaguer, had his contract purchased by the Los Angeles Dodgers and joined the club’s Double-A affiliate in Tulsa. Johnson, 37, is trying to revive his career as knuckleball pitcher and was 4-3 with a 4.50 ERA as a starter for the Saints.
This trio combined for 17 wins, but the addition of Sneed adds a 15-game winner to the rotation. The Saints also made several big moves in the past two weeks to help bolster the offense. They traded for power-hitting infielder David Bergin and re-signed last year’s American Association Player of the Year Vinny DiFazio.
Despite these losses and additions, the Saints still have one of the league’s best pitchers to fall back on. Mark Hamburger, the former major leaguer from Shoreview and Twins prospect, leads the league with 12 wins and six complete games, and is among the top 10 leaders with a 3.21 ERA and 91 strikeouts. Read more about Hamburger in a recent City Pages feature.
The Saints open their series against second-place Winnipeg Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. at CHS Field.